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An alleged cheating scandal at a 2015 WSOP tournament was thoroughly investigated and the player initially accused of wrongdoing by other players was vindicated.

Valeriu Coca, a Moldova native, finished 5th in the $10,000 Heads-Up Championship, but the WSOP held out on paying his prize money after several players complained about Coca’s suspicious play. The incident occurred in early June, leading to an almost 5-month investigation after the allegations surfaced.

“Once issues were brought to our attention, we immediately commenced an investigation and worked cooperatively with the Nevada Gaming Control Board,” read the WSOP statement on the matter. “The investigation that was performed has now been completed by all parties. At this time, the matter is considered closed and the 5th place finisher in Event #10 will now have his funds released for payment.”

Something Amiss?

That statement likely won’t sit well with Connor Drinan, perhaps the most vocal of the players who suspected the Moldovan of cheating. Drinan lost to Coca and sought out other players who Coca had eliminated in the event previously. Several, namely Pratyush Buddiga, Aaron Mermelstein and Matt Marafioti, also apparently felt that Coca may have been up to something in the way that he was looking at the cards.

“It was probably the most frustrating match of my life and I’ve played a ton of HU,” Drinan posted on 2 + 2 after the incident. “It didn’t make sense that a guy grinding 300 euro mtts in eastern europe who has never played WSOP before would come here for the $10k HU and be such a beast.”

Coca, whose live tournament earnings total $317,759, the bulk of that won in 2015, was wearing sunglasses during the WSOP heads-up event. The players who brought up the charges observed Coca to be “rechecking his cards at a bunch of different angles,” said Drinan. Buddiga stated that Coca was doing some “weird card re-checking and reshuffling” and after conferring with Drinan and the other players who lost to Coca, said that “it became pretty clear something fishy was going on.”

In the Clear

Invisible ink and some sort of special sunglasses was one of the theories offered by the players regarding Coca’s behavior. After the statement from the WSOP came down absolving him of wrongdoing, a number of 2 + 2 posters remain unconvinced that Coca was not up to something.

Part of that stems from the fact that Coca was apparently banned from a number of casinos in the Czech Republic for cheating. A friend of Drinan’s from that country informed him of Coca’s misdeeds that allegedly included slightly bending the corners of cards such as Kings and Aces, and betting big when his opponent held no such cards and the situation was ripe for doing so.

In any event, Coca, who was beaten in the WSOP HU tournament by the champion, Keith Lehr, collected his prize money and will no doubt be watched like a hawk at future WSOP events.

Charles Rettmuller

Charles has been an avid poker player for a number of years, both live and online. He holds a degree in journalism and previously worked as a reporter for a Chicago-based newspaper. Charles joined the PokerUpdate team in early 2012 and writes daily news articles for the site.